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NDS-1: A human rights-based approach

Ruvimbo Bvuma :Lawyer

The history of Zimbabwe is scattered with economic blueprints all promising development, job creation and economic growth.

As far back as post-Independence Zimbabwe we had the Growth with Equity (1981); Transitional National Development Plan (1982-85); First Five-Year National Development Plan (1986-90); the notorious Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (Esap) (1991-1995); Zimbabwe Programme for Economic and Social Transformation (Zimprest) (1996-2000); Millennium Economic Recovery Programme (Merp) (2000); Ten Point Plan (2002); National Economic Revival Programme (Nerp) (2003); Macroeconomic Policy Framework (2005–2006): “Towards Sustained Economic Growth”; Expansionary Monetary Policies (2003–2008); National Economic Development Priority Programme (NEDPP) (2007); the Zimbabwe Economic Development Strategy (Zeds); the Short-term Emergency Recovery Programme (Sterp) (2009); the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset) (2013-2018); the Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (IPRSP) (2016-2018).

The launching of the National Development Strategy-1 (NDS-1) on November 16, 2020, by President Emmerson Mnangagwa has many implications for the people of Zimbabwe. It is yet another plan that promises economic development with the desire of making Zimbabwe a upper middle class country by 2030. This is not the first time we have heard of these ambitions and from the look of things we are no closer to achieving that goal than we are to landing on the moon.

The NDS-1 takes over from the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP) which was launched on October 5 2018.

An analysis of the TSP highlights that they were largely criticized as lacking an appreciation for human rights. The TSP was criticised as not being based on a holistic approach to sustainable development that integrated economic, social and environmental imperatives and considerations.

It was rather predicated on the underlying conventional macroeconomics assumption of “trickle down” that once economic growth is attained that will automatically result in employment creation and poverty reduction which has long been proven to be false.

Within the NDS-1 there is a commendable shift. The UNDP has long been an advocate for a human rights-based approach towards development. This model finds genesis within existing international conventions like Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Universal Declaration on the Right to Development and MDGs (Millennium Development Goal and Sustainable Development Goals all aimed at eradicating poverty, providing socio economic support and implementing human rights.

What is a human right?

A human rights-based approach is a conceptual framework for the process of human development that is normatively based on international human rights standards and operationally directed to promoting and protecting human rights.

It seeks to analyse inequalities which lie at the heart of development problems and redress discriminatory practices and unjust distributions of power that impede development progress.

There exists a normative framework of obligations that have the ability to make governments accountable.

The human rights-based approach creates the relationship of duties and obligations. It means that by virtue of being human, citizens are entitled to claim socio-economic and political rights from the state which it is obligated to do so. The human rights-based approach also provides for legal remedies to those who are short changed by any development strategies.

The benefits of a human rights-based approach to an economy has long been discussed. It is often considered holistic by virtue of it having the ability to alleviate injustice, inequality and poverty, which is no different to the goal of the NDS-1 of creating an upper-middle class by creating at least 760 000 formal jobs, growing the economy at an average 5%, improving infrastructure development in energy, water, sanitation, roads and housing, among other economic ambitions.

The advantages of a human rights approach have been discussed by the UNDP and it is a approach that if utilised will allow for governments in developing strategies, to take a closer look at those marginalised group in their communities.

The rationales for a human rights-based approach stem from the intrinsic rationale that it is the right thing to do, morally or legally; and recognising that a human rights-based approach leads to better and more sustainable human development outcomes.

In practice, the reason for pursuing a human rights-based approach is usually a blend of these two. Those countries that have implemented this approach have often benefited from greater success implementing their economic blue prints, this is made evident in Europe and Rwanda which have been commended for this approach towards development with the exception of China.

The NDS have already been hailed as a remarked improvement from previous economic strategies. It is a departure from the past, the NDS-1 has clear macroeconomic objectives and targets as well as social and development objectives and targets. It addresses issues to do with land redistribution, regularising of informal settlements, provision of social welfare and even caters for transitional justice and the provision and protection of the mandate of Chapter 12 institutions, and the creation of institutions like the Complaints Review Commission to allow complaints to be made against the military, police and other state agents. Given the atrocities of the last two years, Zimbabwe is screaming for policy in these areas.

The correlation between human rights and development can be seen in the implications of the violation of property rights by of Land Reform and the rapid descent into economic collapse.

One cannot divorce the protection of human rights from development and economic stability. The standard is that a human rights-based approach should put measures in place to hold the state accountable for failure to deliver on the promises enshrined in the NDS-1.

The NDS should not be aspirational, but rather a framework that begets the creation of obligations towards the relevant stakeholders. Respect for human rights, the rule of law, political pluralism and effective, accountable political institutions form the basis of all development and equitable distribution.

The human rights-based approach to poverty reduction upholds the principles of universality and indivisibility, empowerment and transparency, accountability and participation. The approach is also based on the premise that discrimination and inequality are among the most important causes of poverty and in order to achieve the required targets these should be done away with. This entails allowing political freedoms and preventing any and all forms of discrimination. It means equal access to all of state facilities and infrastructure, whether it be access to land and mineral rights, social welfare, food aid and access to financial incentives and support.

The NDS-1 is a step in the right direction as it has made greater efforts towards pursuing a human rights-based approach to development than any other economic blue print. The NDS-encompasses principles of monitoring and evaluation which gives off the impression that the document will be more than a wish-list but a strategic plan that places obligations upon the state to deliver on its promises.

The importance of monitoring and evaluation in NDS-1 is that everyone involved will be easily held accountable. Whilst some marginalised groups have been left out of the NDS-1 like the disabled, greater work has to be done for greater inclusivity.

Whilst some of the markers for human rights-based development exist in the NDS-1, there exists the problem of political will. Whether or not our government will follow through on the promises of yet another development strategy or it will be another five-year wish list. The difference lies in there being more accountability, but only time will tell.

Bvuma is human rights lawyer. This weekly column New Horizon is co-ordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society and past president of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators in Zimbabwe. – kadenge.zes@gmail.com or mobile +263 772 382 852.

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